Friday, March 18, 2011


by William Shakespeare (aka Billy Shakes)

Ah, Shakespeare. Back to my roots.

I've read Macbeth at least 4 times. I read it again now for the montly book discussion. This is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, along with Othello, Midsummer, and Richard II (I know, no one likes Richard II) to name a few. I truly do enjoy Shakespeare, and Macbeth has it all: murder, betrayal, the supernatural, not to mention some unforgettable monologues (unsex me here!).

I love lady Macbeth, she's crazy. And let's face it, Macbeth would have been nothing without her, both the play and the man. She is a force, and she's unforgettable. Shakespeare knew how to write some really excellent female characters.

I suppose I can't really explain why I like Shakespeare so much. It's work to read, without a doubt, but it almost feels like reading a secret, sacred language, like there's magic in it. And it is the words that hold all the power. There's no blood and gore, no long descriptions of epic chase scenes. It's all about language, which is great.

Shakespeare isn't for everyone, I know, but I still believe he is worth studying (even though UConn no longer requires it for English majors. You can now choose between Chaucer, Milton or Shakespeare. No contest).

Sidenote: this Dover edition isn't so great, although it does provide some definitions. But I'd prefer just about any other edition to this one.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Meaning of Night: A Confession

By Michael Cox

This book is a commitment. 600+ pages of commitment. Once you begin this book you'll feel compelled to move through all the twists and turns and will be itching to know the outcome.

A few things make me crazy though. A) We know by now that I hate footnotes. But also, I hate when authors try to make fiction real. It's called suspension of disbelief. Everyone who reads fiction understands that and is willing to go along wherever you take them. Don't invent an editor and say he found this lost 19th century manuscript. It's unnecessary. You're just making extra work for myself. You used some real places or maybe even some characters who may have existed in real life, fine. But it's still fiction. I know it's fiction. Don't try to make it seem otherwise.

Now that we've got that out of the way, I really liked this book. The Meaning of Night is as enveloping and atmospheric as the thick London fog. Cox constructs an enthralling mystery. It is a master work of festering contempt and patient but desperate revenge. Cox puts you on Edward Glyver's side through it all: his opium hazes, shady work responsibilities and his supreme idiocy in love.

Yes, it is a long book. But the chapters go by quickly, even when the plot is moving slowly. This is the perfect read for the rainy, windy, sometimes snowy, gray month that is March in New England.